Michael Laybourn: Vote Yes on Prop 19


The AVA, UDJ, Dianne Feinstein and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce all agree: Vote no on Prop 19. The AVA voters guide says until pot is legalized at the federal level, state initiatives like this one merely add to the enforcement confusion already prevalent at the local level.

Uh, so what? We have to lead the way as usual. It is a start in the right direction.

The so called “large-scale interests positioning themselves to further dominate the marijuana business” will get taxed and controlled better. Legalization would be a step towards similar laws that beer or wine have, but controlled better than now.

“Some kind of basic regulation will always be necessary to protect people, especially young people, from themselves.” It is written in the law that you have to be 21 –  just like having a beer. And I might not need to be protected from myself.

It is true though. The feds continue a failed drug war, costing billions and not working. Legalization would be a beginning to fix this American problem. The real problem. Americans seem to resist learning from history. Prohibition does not work. It creates crime. A black market appears and criminals take advantage of it. Prices go up and the problems that we don’t like — cartels, water stealing, trashing the environment and violence occurs. The exact same thing happened with alcohol prohibition. Prohibition does not work.

“Since the founding of the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973, 15 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana. That is more people than live in California’s 25 largest cities – millions more than live in Ohio, Pennsylvania or Illinois. The DEA has led an aggressive national law enforcement effort that results in a marijuana arrest every 38 seconds, propelling the U.S. to become the biggest incarcerator on the planet, housing one out of four of the world’s prisoners….

…Joseph McNamara, former police chief in San Jose, California, and Kansas City, Missouri, an active member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, (LEAP) describes the marijuana laws as much worse than ineffective: “they waste valuable police resources and also create a lucrative black market that funds cartels and criminal gangs with billions of tax-free dollars.” – Truthout

From the LEAP site:
“As police officers, judges, prosecutors, corrections officials and others who have labored to enforce the laws that seek to prohibit cannabis (marijuana) use, and who have witnessed the abysmal failure of this current criminalization approach, we stand together in calling for new laws that will effectively control and tax cannabis. As criminal justice professionals, we have seen with our own eyes that keeping cannabis illegal damages public safety — for cannabis consumers and non-consumers alike. We’ve also seen that prohibition sometimes has tragic consequences for the law enforcers charged with putting their lives on the line to enforce it.” As law enforcement professionals, we especially want voters to understand that legalization will allow us to do our jobs more effectively and safely. In 2008, there were over 60,000 arrests for simple misdemeanor cannabis possession in California, yet nearly 60,000 violent crimes went unsolved in our state that same year. When we change our cannabis laws, police officers will no longer have to waste time on low-level cannabis arrests; we’ll be able to focus on protecting the public from murderers, rapists, drunk drivers and burglars. Cannabis cases will no longer clog up court dockets. And room in our costly, overflowing prisons will be freed up when we stop locking people up just because they tested positive for cannabis while on probation.”

That convinces me.

Once again, the question is prohibition. It didn’t work with alcohol and it doesn’t work with marijuana. It is stupid to continue this prohibition. Legalizing marijuana in California will be a start towards solving many of these problems.

One Comment

It is tempting to see 19 as a referendum on prohibition. As of today I see it that way, and, like the author, consider the guts of the proposition basically irrelevant. Over the years I have been snookered by many measures – how about that Indian Gambling initiative? – so I have gradually come to the understanding that my vote is worse than useless. The powers that be will make what they want of any “reform” as they have been doing for decades now. However, the initiative remains the only expression of the public will still available to us. Let’s agree to stop fantasizing that somehow we are going to expel the gangsters from power via the ballot box, OK? It just sets us up for recurrent disillusionment and just serves to weaken the people even more than our corrupt governing arrangements can achieve directly.

So, I will hold my nose in relation to all the sagacious critical comments about 19 and vote for it, if only to vote against the gangsters even if the gangsters, as usual, end up exploiting 19 to their own ends.